Animal activists know all too well how utterly frustrating it can be to be passionate about a cause that the majority of people choose to ignore. Often it may seem that the only way to get those folks to open their eyes and ears is by doing something so terribly shocking that they can’t help but pay attention, whether out of curiosity or pure disbelief. Organizations like PETA certainly feel this to be true. But in such cases, is there a line that mustn’t be crossed, and if so, where should that line be drawn?
Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch is a self-proclaimed “animal protector” who believes that “factory farming is the biggest crime in our society.” He’s also a founding member of the Viennese Actionists, an avant-garde movement that expresses the artists’ dissatisfaction with societal norms through “violent, radical, and explicit forms of performance art.”
His next scheduled performance will be at Dark Mofo, an annual music festival put on by the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Tasmania on June 17, 2017, where he plans to stage a “bloody, sacrificial ritual” using a bull carcass.
This bull will be slaughtered before the festival specifically so that his body can be used in this work. Not surprisingly, this has sparked outrage among animal rights proponents, led by the activist group Animal Liberation Tasmania.
Dark Mofo’s creative director Leigh Carmichael has responded by saying, “The animal to be used is specifically on the market for slaughter. The carcass will be sourced locally, and the animal will be killed humanely, adhering to Australian standards.” But just because the animal’s life is already doomed, does that make it acceptable to have him killed for the sake of art?
MONA founder David Walsh seems to believe it is a worthy cause if it gets people talking and thinking about how these animals are heartlessly murdered day in and day out for meat, which is equally unnecessary for our own well-being.
“For my purposes, it is good art. I believe that it has already spiked a conversation about the appropriateness of slaughter, and Dark Mofo hasn’t even happened yet,” he said, adding, “I want the audience to ponder why meat for food is okay (at least people aren’t protesting at Mona’s barbeque) but meat for ritual or entertainment isn’t. If Nitsch’s performance is wrong … get out there and stop it. And you should also have a crack at getting your own house in order. You should, of course, stop eating meat and rapacious crops, and you should stop doing anything that has cost (economic, social or environmental).”
He has a point, and art has certainly proven itself as an effective form of activism that can open people’s eyes to the vile truths of our age. Nonetheless, the question remains: must an animal’s life be sacrificed just to get people to pay attention? And will that even work to change people’s minds and turn them against factory farming, as Nitsch hopes? Or will this bull’s life be stolen from him in vain?
What are your thoughts, Green Monsters? Please share in the comments below.
Image credit: jurlacher/Flickr